Meth Labs & Kids

This is the world of meth.

"It is cheap and easy to produce, and unlike other drugs, it affects more than just the user."

"These are the silent victims, the children are."

Brandon is just 14 months old. His mother was arrested for running a meth lab. Three months later, another home, another baby.  A 19 month old's mother was arrested. He and his four-year-old brother, sitting helpless in a home so toxic, so combustible, police have more than just machine guns to protect them. But the problem is in East Texas as well.

"The number of cases of child abuse and children being removed from their home due to abuse or neglect is rising at a tremendous rate, quicker than it ever has in the past," says Rand Huzenlaub, the director of development for CASA in Smith, Wood and Van Zandt counties. He says he expects more than 1,000 children will need his help this year, more than ever before.

"90 percent of these cases are drug related and of those, 85 percent are meth related," says Huzenlaub. He explains when children are forced to breath toxic fumes from a meth lab they are being sentenced to death.

"Keep in mind when a child at that age is introduced to meth there life expectancy is 20 years," Huzenlaub explains but many never make it that far.

Indiana investigators believe 10-year-old Katie Collman was killed for what she knew about a suspects meth use. Then, there is Shawn Shaw, a self professed meth user charged with murdering 18 month Kaylyn Gaddie. The infant died of blunt force trauma, her body stuffed in a plastic bag and tossed in a forest. But the abuse from children living around meth isn't always physical.

"In some situation women will actually turn their heads while there children are being sexually assaulted because they don't want to lose their pusher," adds Huzenlaub.

When children are found living in homes where meth is being produced, CASA of Smith County fights for their safety, but not all children are saved.

Four-year-old Jenny Rohas was taken from her mother, a meth user, in San Diego and sent to live with her aunt and uncle, who turned out to be chronic abusers as well. During a three day meth binge, Jenny was tortured, mutilated, hung in a closet, stuffed in a box, and finally submerged in a tub of scalding water and killed. Her aunt and uncle are now on death row.

In Texas, once a child is removed from a home where meth is being produced, the state has a year to find them a home. Six percent of kids return to their parents. 94 percent are adopted, given to relatives or put in foster care.

Michelle Mortensen, reporting.